-Written by Katy Key (with assistance from Stan)-
Today was shower day. It would be embarrassing to describe how much time and energy are required to get me clean and how others are involved in making it happen. The first time I showered after coming home, I cried so hard I don’t think the faucet was even necessary to get me wet. You see, sitting (!) in the shower I’m more aware of my broken body than anywhere else! Here I feel most vulnerable and weak. Like a small child, I have very little control over my body.
In the shower, perhaps more than anywhere else, I realize how dependent I am on Stan and Anna, my therapists and nurses, and others around me.
A doctor recently told me that his patients are typically more afraid of becoming dependent on others than they are of death itself! I can understand the logic in such reasoning. I can’t stand, eat, get dressed, walk, shower, go to the bathroom, or visit with a neighbor without assistance. Becoming dependent is perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. There are moments when I say to myself, “I’d rather die!”
Why is dependence so debilitating? What is it that we so deeply fear?
Jesus, the divine Son of God, said, “I can do nothing on my own… because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). To be honest, most of my life I’ve skipped over that verse because it just didn’t make sense. But lying helpless and paralyzed, I find those words speaking deep peace to my troubled soul. Jesus was dependent on his Father, eternally dependent, daily dependent, gloriously dependent. He did nothing without the Father’s help.
Realizing that Jesus lived in such constant dependence on his Father caused me to wonder if the independence that our culture values so highly has not been overrated. Maybe being dependent on others is not such a bad thing after all!
Writing to the believers in Corinth, Paul describes a time in his life when everything seemed to be falling apart and nothing made sense.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (II Cor. 1:8-9. Italics added).
I’m intrigued by the fact that most of us are going to leave this world in the same way we
entered it: completely dependent on someone else. Apparently, there’s a lesson here that God wants us to learn. No one gets into the kingdom of God through self-reliance! To get in, we must become humble, dependent, and needy… like little children (Matt. 18:3).
As I have meditated on my needy condition I find myself thinking: what made me ever imagine that I was in control of my life in the first place? There was a time when I was healthy and my body was strong, when I pretended that I was in charge of my life and independent of others.
How foolish! Even then I was completely dependent on those around me: farmers, store
owners, architects, teachers, employers, etc. My paralysis is only helping me to realize what has always been true! I’m needy, broken, and can’t make it alone. Becoming dependent is not the worst thing that can happen. In fact, it may be the best! It is those people who don’t realize how broken and needy they are who are most to be pitied (Rev. 3:17).
Now when I shower, I still feel helpless and vulnerable. But the water washing over my body has turned into a shower of blessing!
Daring to Become Dependent
Receiving is an art. It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other. It asks for the inner freedom to say: “Without you I wouldn’t be who I am.” Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love. So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received. Let us be good receivers. (Henri Nouwen).